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Insider tips and highlights at the American Museum of Natural History
July 10, 2023 By CityPASS
A place of wonder, the American Museum of Natural History is one of New York City's most iconic institutions. With so much to explore, it's hard to see everything in one day, so we asked for a little guidance from the Visitor Services team at the Museum. They gave us some insider tips and highlights for this can't-miss museum that will definitely help you leave with more than you came with.
What do you think would surprise people about AMNH? The fluorescing “wall” in the new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. This huge rock slab changes color under different lighting conditions as it showcases a variety of fluorescent minerals from New Jersey’s Sterling Hill Mine. Also, that the Museum now houses the largest display of leafcutter ants in the U.S., in the Susan and Peter J. Solomon Family Insectarium, which opened as part of the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation in Spring 2023.
Best kept secret? The art! Art lovers will not be disappointed with paintings throughout the Museum, from the murals of woolly mammoths and other prehistoric animals by Charles R. Knight, an unparalleled painter of prehistoric scenes, lining the walls of the fourth-floor fossil halls to the beautiful backgrounds of habitat dioramas by such luminaries as Belmore Browne, Frances Lee Jaques, and James Perry Wilson, to name just a few.
Most underrated exhibit? The Hall of North American Forests. There is a calming sense of serenity in this diverse array of plant and wildlife habitats, which includes a northern spruce and fir forest of Ontario, a giant cactus forest in Arizona, mixed deciduous forest in the Great Smoky Mountains, piñon and juniper forests of Colorado, and a coastal plain forest in South Carolina. Here too you will find a massive slice of a California sequoia tree, labeled with highlights of its 1,400 years of history.
If you're in a hurry, where should you beeline it to? The Titanosaur, measuring a whopping 122 feet long, is amazingly large—and only an adolescent—and the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex, both on the fourth floor. Another icon? The 94-foot-long blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. If you have a little more time, see the current Space Show in the state-of the-art Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, or the 360° immersive experience Invisible Worlds in the new Gilder Center.
If you have all day, what are your top things to see and where can you linger? Top things to see are the dinosaur halls on the fourth floor, Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, Akeley Hall of African Mammals, the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals with its views of U.S. national parks, the new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals as well as the Davis Family Butterfly Vivarium and Solomon Family Insectarium in the Museum’s new Gilder Center. Best place to linger: the 400-foot-long Scales of the Universe, a sun-splashed walkway that hugs the glass wall of the Museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space, where you can ponder the vast range of sizes in the universe as you make your way around the 87-foot diameter Hayden Sphere.
Are there any reactions you've heard from guests that have really caught your attention or surprised you? Visitors love emerging from the elevators on the fourth floor to see The Titanosaur’s head sticking out of the gallery, welcoming them to the fossil halls.
Best spot for adults? Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. Meet the relatives—from early hominins who lived more than six million years ago to modern Homo sapiens, who evolved 200,000 to 150,000 years ago. Here you will explore human biology, anatomy, evolution, and creativity, and what is in store for the future of our species.
Best spot for kids? The new Solomon Family Insectarium in the Gilder Center features many live insects, and the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. Kids love bugs. Kids love rocks.
Anything else you want to add? Eating is prohibited in Museum galleries, but you can go out to lunch and return using the same timed-entry ticket on the same day or, better yet, take advantage of the various dining options in the Museum, from the kid-friendly food court to table-service in the new Restaurant at Gilder.
A few other tips
- The Museum’s free Explorer app offers turn-by-turn navigation through the Museum’s four-block campus—a great tool for first-time visitors!
- Visit Ology, a science website from AMNH just for kids.
- General admission to the museum is included with New York CityPASS® tickets, along with admission to the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Gilder Center, plus the Space Show or a giant-screen film.
(Top photo credit AMNH/D. Finnin)